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What can I do about damage from pests, diseases, and weather?

Bad weather or outbreaks of pests and diseases are among the "riskiest" of all farm risks. A hailstorm or pest infestation can seriously affect your livelihood. While you can't make Massachusetts have stable, friendly weather year-round, there are some management strategies to minimize the negative impacts from weather events, pests, or disease incidences.

Consider insuring your farm revenue or crops:

Some forms of insurance can protect you from some losses caused by pests, diseases, and bad weather.

  • Traditional crop insurance covers certain commodities such as apples, sweet and field corn, peaches, cranberries, potatoes, tobacco, winter squash, cultivated clams, and nursery crops.
  • The Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) program insures your overall farm revenue and can be used regardless of the mix of crops on your farm. A similar product, known as AGR-Lite will also cover operations that include some livestock.
  • The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) provides coverage for crops that are not covered by ordinary crop insurance. NAP is available through the Farm Service Agency. Resources:
  • Risk Management Agency. RMA can provide you with information about crop insurance, AGR and AGR-Lite insurance, as well as provide information about insurers that offer appropriate policies in Massachusetts. http://www.rma.usda.gov/
  • The National Agricultural Risk Assessment Library has many documents on crop insurance options. http://www.agrisk.umn.edu/
  • The Farm Service Agency offers NAP coverage. See http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov/nap.htm for more information.

Design your farm operation to minimize the potential effects of weather, pests, and diseases.

Management choices such as enterprise selection, diversification, and using good cultural practices can also minimize the effects of damage.

  • Enterprise selection. Wherever possible, choose crops and livestock that are suited to your climate and resistant to pests and diseases.
  • Diversification. Diversifying your farm enterprises can minimize damage; if one crop is destroyed, another may survive.
  • Using good cultural practices often protects your crops and livestock in spite of potential difficulties. For example, crop rotation can help minimize the effects of many soil-borne diseases.

Resources:

  • The UMass Extension Agriculture and Landscape Program can help you develop farm management practices that will minimize potential damage from pests, diseases, and weather. www.umass.edu/agland
  • ATTRA is a national information service that offers publications about a wide range of cultural topics including diversification, pest and disease management, season extension, and other practices to protect your crops and livestock from pests, diseases, and weather. http://www.attra.org/
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